The announcement by Southwark Council of the names of the four artists shortlisted to execute a commission to replace the stolen Barbara Hepworth sculpture ‘Two Forms – Divided Circle’ which was stolen by metal thieves in 2011 will generate much interest. All are noted international artists and all, as it happens work in London. There will be a public consultation on the artists’ proposals in June.
One of the requirements for the commission is that the work must be created out of material with little commercial value; this might have influenced the steering group which includes Ian McInnes, chairman of The Dulwich Society and Trevor Moore chair of Dulwich Park Friends, as well as the Contemporary Art Society who are Southwark Council’s artistic advisors. The artists have all worked with materials such as Plexiglas, aluminium, steel and even organic matter although this last, together with ice, another chosen medium, are unlikely to feature in the finished work. Opinion will undoubtedly be divided and public discussion guaranteed, especially as Southwark Council has ring-fenced £400,000, the total amount realised from the insurance claim on the missing Hepworth.
When the London County Council spent £15,000 on the Hepworth for Dulwich Park there was considerable criticism of their action. Since that time the LCC has had posthumous praise heaped upon it for its patronage of public art from 1945-65. In Dulwich, Barbara Hepworth’s sculpture has become a much loved part of our local heritage and a huge enhancement to the park. The immense public interest in its replacement was made evident by the large attendance at the Homage to Hepworth presentation in January (see page 7)
Curiously, another piece of sculpture commissioned around the same time, and described by English Heritage when giving it Listed status in 1998, as ‘one of the outstanding pieces commissioned by the London County Council’ – Oliffe Richmond’s ‘Striding Man’, is virtually unknown. It stands, neglected, in the grounds of The Charter School, no longer enjoying its own space as our photograph shows, but instead sharing an open sided tent with a number of exercise machines. Whether the positioning of Richmond’s ‘Striding Man’, so full of energy but bearing such a heavy burden, standing next to a banner announcing the Charter School’s commendable public exam results is a coincidence or an exhortation to the pupils to strive harder, is unclear.